Friday, October 18, 2013

I'm Glad Our God is Not Like Me

God gave me a beautiful glimpse into his world the other day.

Remember the passage in Mark 10, where a man runs up to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life? And remember how Jesus responds? I’ll help you out: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’”

I could write a million things about this passage, but I want to pay special attention to the fact that Jesus, just looking at this man, loved him. That’s all it took. We know that because he is God he also saw this man’s entire life—all his fear, failures, and shortcomings—and that is what makes this passage that much more incredible! I can’t wrap my mind around how amazing our God is.

But like I said, God gave me a special glance in his world the other day. The moment was so special and powerful that it almost knocked me over, and I keep thinking about it over and over again just so I can keep these feelings inside me. My day was progressing as normal—except for the fact that it was raining cats and dogs. I went to work just as I do every day, setting out our snack for the afternoon and putting out all our games and toys for my kiddos to dig into after I picked them up from school. I drove the big ‘ole 15 passenger van through the flooded roads of Sioux Falls to Hawthorne Elementary School, where 13 sets of eyes looked out the window in horror at the sheets of rain falling from the sky. They knew they were going to get soaked—and they took precaution. They dug their coats out of their bags and zipped themselves up, flinging their hoods over their heads to prepare themselves.

All but one student.

My littlest guy. I wish I could share his photo with you but that is highly unethical, and the social worker inside me won’t allow me to. All I will say is that this is not your ordinary kindergartener. He is the tiniest, most fragile looking little kid I have ever seen. And yet at the same time, he is the kindest, funniest, most on fire for life little guy I’ve met. I just love him, and I tell Ben all the time that it takes everything in me not to just scoop him up and take him home with me at night. I just want to love him forever.

He was the only one on that rainy day to just stand by the window in awe. He wasn’t complaining about getting soaked. He was simply amazed at the display God was making outside. In the middle of the chaos I was able to stop and admire his personality, but reality is a rude intruder that shakes me out of these moments sooner than I appreciate. Common sense was telling me to go to him and insist he put his coat on, so that’s just what I did.

I got down on my knees and gently suggested, “Let’s put your coat on, okay? Look at that rain! You’ll get soaked!”

This little man speaks literally no English. But he does know the word “Yes!” and he responds very enthusiastically to almost every single question with this very word. I wish all my students were that agreeable! So we pulled out his coat and I helped him get his arms into the sleeves. I didn’t want to baby him too much so I stepped back and gave him space to zip up his coat on his own, but I noticed he was struggling. His zipper was broken, there was nothing to grab on to to pull it up. He needed my help.

So I moved closer once again and zipped up his coat, and as I zipped it up all the way to his tiny chin, our eyes met. I’m not usually at eye level with my students very often, and especially not this closely. I’m thankful God allowed me this moment, however, because in that moment, I loved this little guy. Just like Jesus took one look at the man and loved him, I looked into my student’s eyes and loved him. The moment was so powerful that like I said, I almost just fell over right there in the school with my other kids running around me.

He is so innocent. So trusting. So unaware that outside of his school and apartment building there is sadness and suffering. His daily life is full of playing, learning, smiling, and laughing. But I also know from where he lives that he faces poverty, great need, and limited opportunities. I want to take him away forever and shield him from the world. I want to rescue him

This moment was one of the most powerful learning experiences in my life. If you’ve been reading my posts for the last two months, you know that I’ve been struggling with my new job as a lead teacher at an after school program. My little guy isn’t the only one facing poverty, great need, and limited opportunities. 90% of my kids are in the same boat. They are rowdy, needy, and sometimes downright naughty. They are normal kids, but you can sense the tension that boils just below the surface. They worry about things many of us can’t begin to wrap our minds around. Poverty is a world we are glad we don’t have to deal with—but my kids deal with it every day.

I can’t always remember this fact. When my kids are acting out in defiance and running around like crazy fools, I just want to shout, Why can’t you just behave? Their behavior frustrates me to no end, and on a few particularly rough days I have simply wanted to throw in the towel and walk out of their lives forever.

I don’t do it, though. We have enough good days to keep me on. On the good days I look around and smile, thinking, Ya know, maybe these kids aren’t so bad after all.

I’m glad our God is not like me.

I’m glad that even on the days when I act out in defiance and run around like a crazy fool, God still looks at me and loves me. He doesn’t think about walking out and giving up hope on me, like I want to do with my kids on their worst days. He just loves me.

This simple truth has been washing over me constantly for the past week. It is such a basic foundation to my faith, but it is powerful enough to stop me in my tracks and bring me to my knees in thankfulness. I fail with my kids every day. But God never fails me. He is constant in his love, and his mercies are new every morning.

That is something to celebrate. 

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